As Barack Obama tries to persuade American voters that converting the U.S. military into an extension of the Peace Corps is a bold demonstration of moral strength, in many ways Spain offers some foreshadowing of what can happen to a country that allows itself to be swept away by the post-modern pacifist rhetoric of its political class.
Since taking office in 2004, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has worked assiduously to craft his own public persona as a “convinced pacifist.” His first official act as pacifist-in-chief was, famously, to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq, a decision that was not only wildly popular with Spanish voters, but also cemented Zapatero’s pacifist credentials on the world stage.
A few months later, facing a barrage of criticism from non-pacifists at home and abroad that his Iraq policy amounted to appeasing Islamic terrorists, Zapatero reluctantly deployed extra troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. But just in case the deployment might cast doubt on his commitment to pacifistic ideals, Zapatero dictated strict rules of engagement that forbid Spanish troops in Afghanistan from using lethal force, a “caveat” that today essentially renders useless their presence in the country.
Later that same year, in his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Zapatero shed some light on his pacifist vision for achieving world peace. Using the flowery post-modern verbiage for which he is now famous, Zapatero declared: “Culture is always peace.” He then went on to argue that Islamic terrorists are misunderstood and can only be defeated by sitting down with them in dialogue.
Zapatero has been careful to appoint only pacifists as Spanish ministers of defense. Zapatero’s first defense minister, the controversial José Bono Martínez, proclaimed: “I am a minister of defense and I would rather be killed than to kill.” He then issued orders prohibiting Spanish troops in Afghanistan from using lethal force on Taliban fighters.
Zapatero’s second minister of defense, José Antonio Alonso Suárez, believed it was his job to demilitarize the Spanish military and to turn the newly disarmed forces into an NGO-like humanitarian organization instead. To achieve his vision, he purged from the senior ranks of the Spanish military those officers who refused to abandon the silly belief that the main purpose of the military is the defense of Spanish sovereignty.
In this same vein, Zapatero’s third and most recent defense minister, Carme Chacón, recently said: “I am a pacifist, as are the armies of the 21st century.” Again: “I am a pacifist woman, and the Army is also pacifist.” What’s more, Chacón hails from the independence-minded Catalan region and does not even believe in the concept of a united and indivisible Spanish nation.
All of which has some Spaniards wondering: What is the Spanish defense minister defending? The answer: Probably defending what could be called the Zapatero Doctrine, which, based on almost five years of political rhetoric, can be said to rest on three main post-modern “principles”: 1) There is no type of threat that can ever justify the use of force; 2) militaries should be converted into humanitarian organizations used for civil protection rather than for the defense of sovereignty; and 3) there is no other source of legitimacy for the use of force apart from the United Nations, and if that body cannot reach consensus, it is better not to act than to act unilaterally.
But does Zapatero really practice what he preaches?